Hot Trends for Homeowners in 2018

Hot Trends for Homeowners in 2018

According to a new article in T&D World, renewables, smart homes, AI and IoT will have a massive impact on how energy and utility companies address the market in 2018.

In the case of smart homes, smart meters enable customers to monitor and calculate their energy consumption and make changes to conserve and reduce costs. As the proliferation of this technology continues, consumers will be in a stronger position to demand more flexibility in service. HomeServe is cited as an example of companies that provide flexibility.

“One example of companies leveraging this demand for increased flexibility is HomeServe, a one-stop digital service company providing emergency and energy services to the home. Through its monthly digital subscription model, the company supplies services to over 7.8 million homes in the UK and over 3 million homes in the US—including energy services, boilers and meters through third-party suppliers. HomeServe itself owns no energy assets, but with its strong customer service and simple payment models generating powerful loyalty and revenue, service providers like HomeServe could soon become energy providers as customer-centric energy provision booms.”

In addition to desire for increased flexibility, there are other trends that are leading utilities to consider offering home protection programs to customers.

Nearly 1 in 5 Americans Have $0 Set Aside for Unexpected Emergencies

As part of its latest State of the Home Survey, HomeServe, a leading provider of repair service plans, discovered potentially worrisome trends about consumer saving and spending habits. The twice annual survey, now in its fourth edition, reports on the financial impact of home repairs and energy use facing Americans. The survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of HomeServe from March 6-8, 2017, among over 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31 percent) Americans don’t have at least $500 set aside to cover an unexpected emergency expense
  • Americans believe car repairs (52 percent), medical emergencies (49 percent) or home repair emergencies (42 percent) could cause an unexpected expense for them in the next 12 months
  • If they had an extra $1,000, the top 3 things Americans would put the funds toward are paying down credit card debt or loans (24 percent), building personal savings (19 percent) or taking a vacation or trip (16 percent)

Aging Americans wish to remain independent and in their own homes

According to U.S. Census data, the number of Americans aged 65 and older is expected to rise 35 percent from 2010 to 2020, and a growing trend for this population is “aging in place.” A comprehensive study on this subject by AARP explains, “this means to grow old in the home where one raised children or in another non-institutional setting in the community. During a lifetime, people develop connections to place and form relationships with neighbors, doctors, hairdressers and shopkeepers. They become intimately familiar with the route to downtown, the rhythm of summer concerts at the band shell park, the best places to get a coveted burger and personalized greeting. These associations, of value to both the individual and the community, cannot be quickly or easily replicated in a new environment. In essence, they can play a pivotal role in successful aging.”

Home warranties address several important aspect of safely aging in place:

Proactive attention to a problem – a person with a plan is more apt to call for service on a small problem before the issue becomes worse, and potentially dangerous. Once on-site contractors can check other systems to ensure there are no additional issues and if any are discovered they can be fixed immediately.

Expeditious response – while it may take days for a contractor from the phone book to arrive, a home protection plan company has a defined and short response time

Careful screening/vetting – home protection plans provide consumers access to fully-vetted, licensed and insured local contractors.  This dramatically reduces the risk related to allowing a stranger into one’s home, particularly for elderly people living alone.

A partnership with HomeServe brings your customers emergency home repair plans that deliver best-in-class service from rigorously vetted local contractors. Learn more about how a partnership can benefit utilities and their customers at www.homeserveutility.com.

Homeowners are Reminded to Tune-Up their Heating Systems

Homeowners are Reminded to Tune-Up their Heating Systems

Although this fall has been unseasonably warm, winter and bad weather is just around the corner, and all too often, homeowners ignore their heating systems, forgetting about regular maintenance until it’s time to turn the system on. Then, at the worst possible time, it breaks down and homeowners are stuck picking a heating, ventilation and air conditioning technician out of the phone book while their family shivers.

Giving a heating system TLC doesn’t only guard against an unexpected breakdown, but makes the system more energy efficient and saves money. For every year of maintenance and cleaning that is skipped, the energy bill increases by 5 to 10 percent, according to House Logic.

“With the winter season around the corner, this is a reminder for homeowners to get their heating systems in optimal shape,” Tom Rusin, HomeServe USA chief executive officer, said. “Maintaining heating systems with some simple preventative measures – some of which require the assistance of a professional technician – can assure that homeowners sail through the winter without any heating system issues or costly repairs.”

HomeServe’s Winter 2017 Biannual State of the Home Survey, which looks at Americans’ preparedness for emergency home repairs and other major unexpected expenses, found 71 percent didn’t think they would have a home repair emergency over the next year, while 54 percent reported having had an emergency the year before. Having a heating system tune-up can prevent homeowners from falling into that 54 percent.

Homeowners should always hire a licensed HVAC technician with appropriate insurance to perform a tune-up, because it isn’t just about cost and convenience, it’s also about safety. Clogged flues, chimneys and filters can cause carbon monoxide to back up into the home, causing headaches, dizziness and nausea – even death. Carbon monoxide detectors can prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, and so can regularly cleaning out the heating system.

In addition, the technician will check and tighten any electrical connections to ensure none are faulty and a potential fire hazard, according to the Home Advice Guide. Faulty electrical connections can short out the system and reduce its lifespan. Technicians will examine gas and oil connections, making sure they are in good working order. Dirty or leaking gas or oil connections don’t only hurt energy efficiency, but are a major health hazard, according to Energy Star.

HomeServe USA established National Tune-Up Day, Sept. 25, in 2014 to remind homeowners to keep on top of needed maintenance. Homeowners are encouraged to mark National Tune-Up Day on their calendars and schedule a home heating system tune-up before it gets cold – and they discover there’s a problem.

A partnership with HomeServe brings your customers emergency home repair plans that deliver best-in-class service through an extensive network of rigorously-vetted local contractors. Learn more about how a partnership can benefit utilities and their customers at www.homeserveutility.com.

Tips for Choosing a Contractor

Tips for Choosing a Contractor

When you have an electrical or plumbing problem, the last thing you want to do is hire the wrong contractor – a bad contractor can turn an inconvenience into a nightmare.

If you haven’t worked with a contractor before, choosing one when you’re dealing with leaky pipes or faulty wiring might feel overwhelming, especially if you’re in a hurry to have your home repair issues addressed. However, you should choose a contractor carefully because you’ll have to live with their work.

Licensed, Bonded and Insured

Your first step is to make sure any contractors you’re considering are licensed, bonded and insured. Ask for a contractor’s license and insurance policy numbers – if they hesitate to share them, it’s time to move on – and call your state licensure board to verify they are current. You also can check whether the contractor has any past or current complaints against them with the licensure board.

You also want to be sure your contractor’s insurance is up-to-date and includes worker’s compensation – otherwise, if the contractor or their employee is hurt on the job, you may be responsible. A good contractor should be glad to discuss what their insurance covers, and you should be aware of what their insurance will cover and what your homeowner insurance will cover.

Cover all the bases, and check prospective contractors’ Better Business Bureau rating. You also can call your local BBB office and ask if there are any open complaints against the contractor.

Up to Code

When you have work done, even a repair, you likely will need a building permit, which may need to be displayed in a window while work is being completed.

Be wary of a contractor who either tells you they can do the work for cheaper without a permit or asks you to obtain the permit. If the permits are missing or incorrect, you may not be able to have the renovation or repair inspected by the code enforcement officer. That can lead to problems getting your utilities reconnected or selling your home later.

A good contractor knows the local codes and regulations – and the building or code enforcement office should know them. If you’re not sure to where to begin looking for a contractor, ask the building and code enforcement office for recommendations – they are inspecting the work of local contractors regularly.

Understand What You’re Paying For

A contract can never be too detailed when it comes to home repair.

You should have a start and completion date, information on building permits and fees and a line item list of what you are paying for, including materials, equipment rentals if applicable and labor costs. Expect materials to make up approximately 40 percent of the cost of the repair, and you can and should ask the brand and type of material be specified in the contract.

Your contractor also should include information about their liability and worker’s compensation insurance and obtain lien releases from suppliers and subcontractors – it will protect you from liens if your contractor fails to pay their bills. You may even want to ask for financial references from a supplier or banker.

A good contract also should include information about your warranty. Don’t be shy when asking about the extent and length of a warranty – after all, even the best contractor can make a mistake or inadvertently use flawed materials, and you shouldn’t have to live with it. If a contractor is cagey or vague about a warranty, that’s a red flag.

Clear Communication

You should be in daily communication with your contractor; trade cell phone numbers and decide on your preferred means of communication.

There are several things that you’ll need to communicate with your contractor about, and they may not be covered by the contract. You’ll need to let your contractors know what bathrooms they may access and where they can park. Do you not allow smoking in your home? You need to tell your contractor.

Items that may or may not be covered in your contract include whether you will need to hire a furniture mover or move furniture yourself – many contractors won’t move furniture because it opens them up to liability if something is broken – and what you can expect to be cleaned up at the end of each day and at the conclusion of the work.

Hiring a contractor is an involved and complex process, but it’s one you want to do right.

With HomeServe, contractors are vetted before they arrive at your door – each one has an A rating with the Better Business Bureau and maintains a high customer satisfaction rating. To learn more, visit www.HomeServeUSA.com.